Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXXIII No. 21, February 16-29, 2024

Our Readers Write

More on Pallikaranai marshland

I read your latest about the Pallikaranai marshland with interest (The Pathetic state of Pallikaranai marsh, (MM, Vol. 33, No. 20, February 1st, 2024).

First, Chennai is far from a ‘world-class’ city. Dravidian propaganda aside, no Indian city has ever developed anything like a civic sensibility. And since in democracies the governing class is drawn from the populace, nothing is likely to change unless civic sense develops (or is bashed in).
At least encroachment by the State can be reversed. Private entities need to be treated with the belt. Those of us familiar with Indian courts know they aren’t such sticklers for contract law to begin with. So that possibility is more than alive.

As for the buyers…well? Evict them. Sure they will protest, but that is what political capital exists for. Bring out the bulldozers. Punishment is a part of governance. And in cases like this there are no amicable solutions. Only trade offs.

Peacenicks like you, Sriram, will disagree but the problem in this country is that we don’t wield the whip unless it is too late. Wielding the whip hand, evicting and compensating a few thousand people is infinitely preferable to the other option: constant flooding in the monsoon a few years down the line and a living cesspit. If you ventured into the interior of the ECR (the side that faces the Canal) near the ISCKON temple in December, you’d have noted most of those Casa Grande flats were flooded.
We also need to give up the idea that poor buyers are all innocent lambs. No one who pays serious money without looking at the land he buys should be treated with too much respect.


Search for Roots

I am a 72 year old Anglo Indian who left India in the early 60’s. I now have grandchildren who want to know about my family history.

Sadly on journey to the UK, we lost valuable possessions, such as precious photos, marriage certificates etc. Both my parents and grand parents lived in Madras. I remember places like Vepery, Pudupet, Mount Road etc.

I would love to know more about the Anglo Indians during this period and would love to find my parents marriage, birth certificates, where they got married, etc, etc.

My grand father, Victor Joseph Murray also apparently went by the name Victor Jude. His wife was Evelyn Alice Peters. Their daughter/my mother – Winifred Philomena Murray married Ronald Joseph Gomes.
They would have married in July 1951.

I would be extremely grateful if someone puts me in the right direction or offers any help at all as to how I can gain access to Anglo Indians in Chennai.

Mrs. Deirdre Augier nee Gomes

Childhood memories of Karaneeswarar Koil Street

Browsing through the family archives, I chanced upon this photograph, dating to 1987. This is not a street scene from some town in South India, but from the place I was born, grew up and lived in for the first 36 years of my life, the Karaneeswarar Koil Street in Mylapore.

For those not familiar with the locality, this street connects Santhome High Road to Bazaar Road, meeting the Karaneeswarar temple at its western end. A fork to the right at the beginning of the eastern end of the road as one enters from the Santhome side leads to the St. Bedes school ground and further down, the Hamilton Bridge. Growing up, I had always known my street as Karaneeswarar Koil Street, with the aforementioned right-fork road being known as the Karaneeswarar Pagoda Street. However, an enamel sign board (which still lies hidden from plain view on the compound wall of a building at the western end of Karaneeswarar Koil Street) bears what could have been the original name of my street, Karaneeswarar Pagoda Street.

Growing up, I remember several single-storeyed residences dotting the street, with a few traditional houses complete with sloped roofs, thinnais and courtyards interspersed in between. It was mostly a residential grid, with very few small shops in the entire stretch. A few doors away from our residence was a cowshed, whose inhabitants were lovingly cared for by a family of milkmen. Adjacent to it was a printing press, the rhythmic sounds of whose machines are still vivid in my memory. Two small temples to Lord Ganesha, with very low roofs flanked our residence on either side. These shrines have been renovated over the last couple of decades. The stretch did not have streetlights until the mid-1990s. A lone sodium vapour lamp at the entrance of our residence used to be the sole source of light for a good part of the street.

The street was home to a variety of characters, each of whom brings back several childhood memories. The tailor on the left side of the picture (STYLE KING) was our costumer right through school. Venkatesan, who ran the shop was a man with a heart of gold. He was a veritable do-gooder who was the first on the scene of any local issue. He unfortunately succumbed to cancer at an early age. He took a keen liking to my grandfather, always calling him Appa! My grandfather was equally fond of him and commissioned several domestic stitching assignments (much to the chagrin of my grandmother, who had her own views on the quality of his output).

The house opposite ours (not seen in the picture) had an inhabitant who held tremendous terror for me and my cousins while growing up. She was a very frail old lady, who actually lived on the thinnai of the house. She had a wide toothless grin and her white hair used to remind the kid in me of strands of panjumittai. Her voice however belied her thin frame and was capable of sending shivers down anyone out to create some mischief. She was just known as ‘ayah’, as no one knew her real name!

The street was also home to an Akka (also fondly known as Nadar-Amma), a feisty character capable of giving as good as she got, when it came to local squabbles. She ran a petty shop but also occasionally dabbled in real estate broking. In the early 2000s, when water scarcity was at its peak and water lorries filled tanks set up in public places from which people could gather water, Akka’s public spiritedness came to the fore. For over two years, she managed a no mean feat, that of ensuring that there was some semblance of order in people queuing up to fill water. Given the sensitivity of the issue, the entire exercise was frequently characterised by shouting matches (with plenty of colourful lingo in praise of several generations of each other’s ancestors thrown in) and Akka managed it all with elan.

Interestingly, the Karaneeswarar temple (seen at the far end of the photo) which dates to the Chola era did not have a Rajagopuram until 2003. The temple was in a dilapidated state until the late 1980s, when Mylai Guruji Sundararama Swamigal led a massive renovation exercise and a kumbhabhishekam was performed.

Over the last couple of decades, several single storey residences slowly started giving way one by one to small apartment buildings. Today, several small shops dealing in a variety of things dot the street, transforming the entire stretch into one bustling with activity at all times. The independent houses that remain stand a silent spectator to the inevitable changes brought about with the passage of time.

Karthik Bhatt

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay Updated